We are going to rent a car for 3 days when we are in Siena so we can drive to some hilltowns and enjoy the fabled countryside. The next leg of our trip is 3 nights in Sorrento and visits to Pompeii and Naples. We could drive to Sorrento, or take the train. For those of you who have done it, any advice? Thanks!
Take the train. We drive in Europe a lot and usually enjoy it, but driving anywhere near the Amalfi Coast was just flat-out miserable. Take your typical narrow, winding roads and add kamikaze scooters, wandering pedestrians, a few bicycles, and many impossibly large buses and put them all bumper-to-bumper. If I was driving my own beat-up car it would almost qualify as a masochistic sport. But driving a rental car where every scratch or ding (or in our case - destroyed driver's-side mirror) means hundreds of $ worth of costs when you bring the car back, and it just becomes an exercise in constant terror. This is an area where the only sane way to get from one place to another is by train, boat, or bus.
I have done my share of driving in crazy places, but would not attempt driving Amalfi Coast but you will find others who have no problem. We took train from Naples to SOrrento and then bus down coast to Positano.
Thank you for the responses! Really, I just considered driving to Sorrento and ditching the car in favor of the train. So no where near the coast (thank you for the tip about the traffic). Just cross country to Sorrento, to avoid train changes and luggage schlepping - even though we pack light I am feeling my almost 6o years.
Drive and don't worry. You'll be without the aggravation of multiple train changes with luggage. Much faster too. I've done it in 4 hours from Florence. From Siena it's even less. It's all freeway all the way to Castellammare, so you don't even have to touch the dreaded Naples. From the freeway exit you take the Salernitana highway and you are in Sorrento in 20 minutes and it's not scary at all. Between Sorrento and Amalfi, and through Positano, it gets a little more challenging. It gets also busy on weekends. I'd drive my own car rather than relying on the bus, but Italy is where I learned how to drive and others may not be as comfortable driving just inches from the guardrail protecting you from falling down the cliff to the sea below. So if you don't feel comfortable, just park the car at your Sorrento hotel and take the bus to Positano and Amalfi. I forgot: try not to drive in Naples. But Sorrento to Amalfi could be ok on a weekday. Just blow the horn at every curve and watch out for buses coming from the other direction. They tend to occupy your side of the road when they curve.
We just returned from our trip to Sorrento and Sicily. We flew into Rome, took a train to Naples and then a train to Sorrento. Easy trip. Stayed in Sorrento for 4 days and made a day trip by bus to Positano and Amalfi. Let me just say...I do not get car sick, but once I got off the bus in Amalfi, I told my husband I was NOT getting back on the bus to go back to Sorrento. Scariest ride I have ever been on. We ended up taking a boat back to Sorrento. It wasn't just me either. There were 4 other couples on the boat going back to Sorrento that were actually on the same bus as me. My advise is NOT to drive yourself, take the boat. Its a beautiful trip.
We did rent a car in Sicily and drove all over that island. The only problems we ran into were in Palermo. It's a very busy city and there don't seem to be any rules for driving or staying in your lane.
Leave the freeway and "...you are in Sorrento in 20 minutes"? We did that approach twice in four days. The first time took 2 1/2 hours (a Saturday) the second time took only 90 minutes (a Monday). The only way it could take 20 minutes is if you were the only person on the road, and that won't happen until 10 minutes AFTER the Rapture. Then, every time you want to drive from Sorrento to somewhere else you have to do it all over again.
Thanks for all the imput. It's wonderful to have the opportunity to discuss all the options with travelers who have gone before! Thanks.
I'm in the camp of those who don't take long to drive to Sorrento from the end of the motorway. We stayed near Castellammare de Stabie (don't have access to google maps for the right spelling) on the coast overlooking the Bay of Naples and Vesuvius. The drive from Napoli to Pompei and our hotel took a little while on the autostrada, but not long. From our hotel into Sorrento was about 20 minutes along the main highway just inland from the south coast of the Bay of Naples. Sorrento to Salerno via Amalfi took maybe 90-120 minutes with me driving in April. Oh to think of the freshly squeezed blood orange juice. And the lemons on the trees ... oh I could go back now. And I'd probably drive. My own car. So if you want to drive the Amalfi, fold in your mirrors because I don't want them hitting mine.
Sometimes it takes me 2 hours to cross the Bay Bridge into San Francisco, that doesn't mean it takes always 2 hours. From Castellammare to Sorrento will take a long time on a Summer/Spring weekend for sure, and in July/August probably most days. But that's not the norm on a weekday outside of those periods.